A civilian died in an Army ambush, laid for militants, in Kupwara district of north Kashmir on Sunday, triggering violent protests and widespread condemnation. The government ordered a magisterial inquiry.Asif Iqbal Bhat, a driver from Thindpura in Kupwara, died of bullet injuries after the Army fired at a vehicle in the early hours. The Army spokesman said the ambush party observed the suspicious movement of three persons in Thindpura. “The individuals were challenged and they did not respond. Thereafter, terrorists opened fire. In the crossfire, Bhat was killed. An investigation is in progress,” he said. ‘No provocation’ However, the victim’s brother alleged that the Army opened fire without any provocation when Bhat left home to pick a passenger, who had booked his cab. “My brother was shot in the head. The Army opened indiscriminate fire on our home when I and my father tried to reach the spot,” he said. ‘Mistaken identity’The police, who filed a First Information Report (FIR), called it “an incident of mistaken identity.” “An inquiry committee has been constituted. Nobody is above the law. We will investigate the circumstances leading to the firing,” said Shamsher Hussain, Senior Superintendent of Police (SSP), Kupwara.Protests and clashesAfter violent protests and clashes in the district all through the day, the government ordered a probe, headed by Deputy Commissioner (Kupwara) Khalid Jahangir. The inquiry will be completed in 21 days. “If anyone is found guilty, action will be taken,” Mr. Jahangir said. Security forces used tear-gas shells to contain the situation in the area, where Internet services remained suspended.All Parties Hurriyat Conference chairman Mirwaiz Umar Farooq, Tehreek-e-Hurriyat chairman Syed Ali Geelani and JKLF chief Yasin Malik called it a “cold-blooded murder.” “With unbridled powers and impunity, the trigger-happy forces continue to kill in such a cold-blooded and merciless manner. Not a single soldier or policeman involved has ever been booked,” the Mirwaiz said.Mr. Malik said the “shameless statements of the government and the ruling party is to cover up this gruesome act.” “Pro-India rulers, led by Chief Minister Mehbooba Mufti, justify these killings of Kashmiris by putting the blame on the oppressed,” he said.“An uninvestigated claim of a young life lost in ‘cross-firing’ shouldn’t be used to brush the incident under the carpet,” National Conference working president and former Chief Minister Omar Abdullah said. A Congress spokesman asked the security forces “to ensure the safety of the innocent while dealing with militants.” “The incident must be investigated and justice ensured. The government should provide full compensation to the bereaved family,” he said.CPI(M) MLA from Kulgam M.Y. Tarigami said such incidents could have been avoided had the security forces exercised maximum restraint. “Such killing is bound to inflame the situation. Unfortunately, no distinction is being made between the civilians and the militants,” he said.Independent MLA Engineer Rashid staged a protest.
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